cover image The Ravickians

The Ravickians

Renee Gladman. Dorothy (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-0-9844693-2-1

Gladman welcomes us back to the city-state of Ravika, the site of her 2010 novel, The Event Factory, where paved roads are stories and the lives of buildings and their inhabitants are so closely entwined that “the despair” causing the city’s districts to erode also endangers the very language of its poets and writers, making translation impossible. Against a backdrop of creeping insularity and decay, the novelist Luswage Amini sets out to attend a reading by the great Zàoter Limici, moving through ghostly penthouses and strange shadows cast by the unfamiliar dialects of strangers. But the simple act of strolling puts Amini in mind of the immortal work, I Thought of Architecture, written by Amini’s greatest love. This is merely prelude to the “path of words” Limici intends to cut through the endangered city with poems. What sounds conceptually overweighted in summary isn’t in the book; Gladman’s talent for linguistic architecture makes for a supple, tight promenade through heady ideas whose appeal rests on the implicit connection it draws between a people, their language, and the shape of communication. A novel set inside a poem, the work grasps at the heart of an imaginary people, deftly illustrating their inner life and looming stagnation in little more than 150 pages. (Dec.)